In addition to hosting a massive Easter Egg hunt for local families, the Redmond, Ore. property is home to an annual family-friendly Block Party and high school cross-country meets. CourseCo, the course’s longtime operator, spent $100,000 to remodel the clubhouse restaurant and the club hosts several top-tier tournaments each year. The city wants the course to turn a profit when debt ends in 2033.
Travis Kane, General Manager of Juniper Golf Course in Redmond, Ore, has about 12,000 plastic eggs in his office. The eggs will be scattered around the course for a massive egg hunt on Easter Sunday—an event that the municipal course is hoping will draw in many families, The Bulletin of Bend, Ore. reported.
The upcoming Easter egg hunt is one of many steps the city of Redmond, which has a population of just over 30,000, is taking to evolve the course from a golfers-only destination to a multifaceted community facility in anticipation of a decrease in golf as a primary draw, The Bulletin reported.
In February, city staff organized a committee to decide on a vision for Juniper’s future and renegotiate a contract with the course’s longtime operator, CourseCo. The city’s eventual goal for the course is to have it turn small annual profits after its $4 million debt is paid off in 2033, The Bulletin reported.
“We want Juniper to have a very clear and defined positive identity,” said Annie McVay, Redmond’s Parks Manager. “People either don’t know that we’re here, or they might be under the impression that this is a private golf course and not understand that it is a larger community asset as well.”
In 2003, the golf course took out a $5.93 million construction loan—which was backed by the city—to relocate. Juniper GC’s original home was on land owned by the Redmond Airport, which the airfield leased to the golf course for $1 a year, The Bulletin reported.
Federal Aviation Administration laws, though, require airports to charge fair-market rates for their lands, meaning Juniper was looking at a rent increase of about $300,000 when its contract with the airport expired in 2006, according to The Bulletin’s report.
Instead—with the unanimous backing of the 2003 Redmond City Council—the course moved to its current site on land donated by the city and the Bureau of Land Management. Juniper also took out a second city-backed loan in 2006 for another $800,000 to finish construction work on the new course, The Bulletin reported.
According to Jason Neff, Redmond’s Chief Financial Officer, the city pays $407,000 each year in debt from the course construction. But from 2026 until 2033, when the bond matures, the annual payment will drop to $350,000, The Bulletin reported. This annual payment means Juniper won’t be able to turn a profit until the debt has been paid off, rendering it an “albatross” until 2033, according to City Manager Keith Witkosky.
Meanwhile, as Redmond waits for the bond to mature, golf as a sport has declined nationwide, The Bulletin reported. According to Gene Krekorian, a Los Angeles-based consultant specializing in golf courses who is assessing Juniper GC alongside city staff, 12.4 percent of the United States (excluding small children) participated in golf in 2003. By 2017, that number dropped to 7.9 percent. And more golf courses have closed than opened since 2006.
While there are several theories as to why courses are shuttering—millennials are turned off by golf’s slower pace, the “Tiger Woods effect” ended after the superstar’s career collapsed, rising minimum wages have made it more expensive to staff courses—Krekorian said there isn’t one “silver bullet” answer, The Bulletin reported.
“Nobody’s really put their finger on what’s caused the decline, but the [excitement] among millennials has dropped substantially,” he said. “We’re just not seeing people enter the game like before.”
However, golf activity at Juniper GC has actually been improving, The Bulletin reported. According to Neff, in the 2017-18 fiscal year, 32,555 people paid for rounds of golf at the course—a jump of more than 3,200 rounds from the 2016-17 fiscal year, and the highest amount since 2012. And although the course had operated in a deficit for four straight fiscal years between 2013 and 2017, revenues exceeded expenses by $29,000 in the ‘17-’18 fiscal year.
What’s also appearing to help turn around Juniper’s financial fortunes is its increased emphasis on drawing more visitors to the property by hosting events, The Bulletin’s report speculated. Along with the Easter egg hunt, the course will host its fifth annual free block party for the community this summer, complete with bouncy houses, face painting, food and a movie night screened on the driving range. High school cross-country races have also been held on the grounds.
In June 2016, CourseCo put $100,000 into a remodel of the clubhouse restaurant, The View, The Bulletin reported. According to Kane, who works for CourseCo, the project included a new pizza oven, a speedier menu, new furniture, TVs and 10 taps of beer.
“It definitely needed a little sprucing up,” McVay said of the restaurant.
After the remodel, Juniper’s food-and-beverage revenues have soared, although its expenses have also gone up, so it still doesn’t turn a profit, according to city data. But F&B has pulled in 35 percent of all sales for Juniper since 2016—only slightly less than greens fees and carts, which make up 38 percent of sales, The Bulletin reported.
The restaurant has started hosting more themed dinners, such as “Prime Rib and Jazz,” along with karaoke nights, to draw in more customers, according to The Bulletin’s report.
Still, the course hasn’t neglected the golf side of its business. Juniper GC has hosted top-tier local golf tournaments, from the Oregon Open Invitational to the Central Oregon Junior Championship, Kane told The Bulletin, and now brings in two to three larger competitions each year, which net about $10,000 each year.
Longtime Juniper members said they have noticed the increased crowds on the links and in the restaurant, according to The Bulletin’s report. Barb Schreiber, a 22-year member, joked that the course has become so popular that it’s difficult to find parking.
“In the summertime, it’s very hard to get on the course, unless you plan ahead,” she said.
Juniper’s future has been the topic of much discussion among city staff recently, as the City Council formed a committee to assess CourseCo’s performance in operating the facility, The Bulletin reported. The city will decide by July whether it wishes to sign a new, five-year contract with CourseCo or seek a new management company, Neff said.
But regardless of how well Juniper operates financially while the city counts the days until 2033, McVay said Redmond treasures its golf course.
“Even since the old course, Juniper has been a staple and a part of the community for a long time,” she said. “It’s a big asset.”